Phew! Finally a film that puts the snap, crackle and pop back into the thriller genre! If you have for once gulped down a sigh, having sat through a tautly made Tamil flick, wondering why films of the sort are never ever made down here, head straight to the hall near you that plays Passenger. Ranjith Shankar's independent style flaunts a classic stratagem that pumps in the right amount of grit and intrigue into a film that's as spry and alive as it could possibly be.
It all happens on a day when destiny throws in a bunch of people going on with their uneventful lives, together on a mission. Sathyanathan (Sreenivasan) is one of the millions of daily commuters by train, who having fallen asleep one late night misses his home town station. Waking up, he gets acquainted with Nandan Menon (Dileep), an advocate by profession who is heading to a hotel room where he would be alone for the night, since his wife Anuradha (Mamta Mohandas) is away on an assignment, covering up a news story that has been rocking the state. The men strike up a pleasant conversation before parting ways as the train grinds to a halt. Little do they realize that the TV journo has on her cards, a set of different plans - those that will change their lives forever.
With any number of film makers out there obsessed with tradition, culture and even language, Malayalam cinema had almost begun to remind me of branded bottled water. Exactly the same size, manner and taste. And along comes the Passenger, that's packed with plenty of smart, fresh and welcome touches. Little wonder then that it injects a new verve into a medium that had been rotting away in a swamp of replications.
Now this is what I would call smart film making. It doesn't climb up that high-and-mighty platform to look down on the masses who have gathered to receive those pearls of wisdom that would soon drop down in profusion. On the contrary, it has its theories firmly rooted in the ground, and it occupies a seat beside you and me and takes a look at the world around. And finally, lets us decide.
Passenger respects the age and times that have witnessed its making. It's a film for today. And it smells of the real world from which you had taken a break. There is the new age grandmom who has cast aside the betel pot for the remote and who busies herself supporting her faves on the reality show. An entire generation that has mistaken an addiction for machismo isn't spared either. A popular sport rules the roost in living rooms. Hi-fi gadgets and gizmo occupy laymen pockets and mouths.
There are any number of sequences that would make you feel if you haven't felt that sometime yourself. Such is the proximity that the film builds up in no time. There's a fantastic rejoinder that Sathyan puts forward, when he suggests that these days jokes are often restricted to dreams. Open your eyes and you see disasters all around. And when the station master admits that fear has almost become an ingrained emotion in man, we can only readily agree with a nod.
Working up his way from a tight and real solid script, Ranjith extends the bristling style that he cooks up in the first hour, in new directions in the latter half, as he lives up to time-honored story expectations. He does the obligatory wrapping up without inflicting musty conventions upon the viewers. Songs for one, go for a toss. And so do the absurd stand-up humor tracks. Superbly planned and elegantly executed, there's rarely a dull moment in this adroit film.
I am tremendously glad to see two actors breaking up the fetters that have been binding them down terribly. Sreenivasan brings in an ordinariness to his portrayal that's quite effortlessly endearing. Dileep effectively underplays his role to perfection and it's heartening to see him go for a role that offers him some meat with a vengeance. This should be a clean start for Mamta as well, whose choices have been nothing short of catastrophic till date.
I have little doubt that I am gonna watch this one all over again. And I'm sure several of you would do as well.
NOW PLAYING | MOVIE REVIEWS